Hey y’all, happy Sunday! Though it doesn’t necessarily feel that happy, does it? I’ve written probably 5 different iterations of this post because no matter what I write, it doesn’t feel articulate or adequate enough. But that’s not really the point in the end, either. Difficult conversations can feel clunky, but that's not a reason not to have them.
I had hoped to write another post today about how excited I am to be campaigning to be the next Maxim Cover Girl, but the country is a mess right now and if I’m being totally honest, I’m having a hard time feeling enthusiastic about much of anything. Our fellow Americans of color need our support. And they are Americans. Their lives are absolutely equal to yours, reader. They are wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, and cousins. They experience grief and loss and love and joy and heartbreak and births and deaths. But many of the deaths they face are unjust.
Our country has a long, complicated history with race. We also have issues with gender, sexuality, and political and socioeconomic structures. And all these complicated issues tie into one another, creating complicated layers that we, as a nation, need to unpack.
I wrote a paper during my Masters Degree journey that spoke about the Black Lives Matter movement and its importance in contemporary American culture. As I wrote the paper, there were several moments I had to breathe and walk away from the weight of the lives lost to police brutality and injustice. And, as a white woman, I had the ability to do that - to take a breath and walk away for a moment. But that is not an option for people of color where the hashtag #ICantBreathe has now been reused and recycled for multiple deaths due to police brutality.
I’ve heard what feels like every argument in the book against the protests, looting, and rioting. Here’s the deal, I don’t agree with looting in any capacity whether it took place in Los Angeles this weekend or in Minneapolis or in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But, even though I don’t agree with looting, it doesn’t mean I will shut myself off to the discussions that need to happen around race and inequality. Have you ever been so angry you’ve needed an outlet? We make a point of teaching children to funnel their feelings into healthy activities for emotional expression like the arts, music, or sports, encouraging them to speak or sing their truth or to let it out on the field or on the court or in the pool.
I’m sure you’ve experienced anger in your life, dear reader. You’re a human being. But unless you are a person of color, experiencing daily life as someone who does not have white skin, you cannot fully understand the anger the black community is feeling right now. I can’t, either. But we can try our best to listen and empathize and understand. We can read black literature, listen to the lyrics of black music, watch black documentaries, and we can try to support a community that needs our support always, but especially now.
You’re upset about how people of color are protesting right now? Great. Get upset and understand that your upset is nothing compared to theirs. And use your upset to relate. Because until we actively choose to listen to what our fellow Americans of color have been saying to us for years, nothing will change. Don’t want to try and empathize or sympathize because you disagree with how people are protesting and you wish they’d be more peaceful about it? Great, then with this question, maybe ask yourself why you were also upset when Colin Kaepernick peacefully protested by taking a knee? Or perhaps you’re not upset with any of the protesting and can empathize and support your fellow Americans of color? That’s the ideal here - understanding, empathy, and support.
I don’t have an immediate solution to the issues of America right now, but I do know that the path to true growth as a nation starts with listening, empathizing, and not invalidating the experiences of other people with whom we share a country.
Black lives matter. Yes, all lives matter, and blue lives matter, too. And not all cops are bad. I have several extended family members and friends who are police officers who chose that life path to protect and to serve American citizens regardless of the color of their skin, and the cops in my life are appalled at what they've seen. And their lives matter, but right now, black lives need to matter more. Black lives need our focus and our efforts because black lives are being lost at the hands of corruption, racism, and socioeconomic inequality.
At the very end of the day, you need to ask yourself what kind of person you want to be. Ask yourself if you’d be okay with being treated as a black person in America, trading spaces in life. I did not go physically protest because protesting gives me a lot of anxiety. And you know what? Good. My anxiety does not even compare to the constant anxiety many people of color feel on a daily basis, unable to trust that those who swore to protect and to serve will actually do so instead of claiming another life at the hands of racism.
If you are someone who believes that Black Lives Matter, if you are someone who believes that changes need to be made in America, if you are a person of color, if you are one of the good cops who took a knee alongside protestors, if you are someone thinking critically about your emotional reactions to everything happening in our country right now and trying to sort through your own engrained prejudices (we all have them, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender), thank you. And if you are my friend and a person of color, I love you. Heck, even if you're not my friend, I still have love for you, knowing that you are also someone's family and a human being who experiences many of the same shared experiences everyone goes through in life. I will have your back however I can. Be kind to each other. Help each other. Support each other. Black Lives Matter, and as a country, we need them to matter a lot more.